Flyers, Rangers: Battle for home ice

The Flyers’ first priority is clinching a playoff spot, but they want to overtake the New York Rangers and finish second in the Metropolitan Division, giving them home-ice advantage in the opening round.

The second-place Rangers have a two-point lead on the third-place Flyers, who have two games in hand. The Flyers have eight games remaining, including Tuesday’s difficult matchup in St. Louis, while New York has six games left.

The Flyers play five teams in the playoff hunt; the Rangers play just two teams (Colorado and Montreal) that figure to make the playoffs.

Under the NHL’s new format, the second- and third-place teams will face each other in the opening playoff round. A Flyers-Rangers matchup appears likely.

In the regular season, the Flyers and Rangers are 2-2 against each other, with the home team winning each game.

“I think it does help,” center Vinny Lecavalier said after the Flyers’ optional practice Monday at the Wells Fargo Center, referring to the home-ice advantage. “If I look back at my experiences with a Stanley Cup run (with Tampa Bay in 2004) _ playing the Flyers in Game 7 at home, playing Calgary in Game 7 at home _ I think it helped.”

If it comes down to a Game 7, getting that extra push from your fans is beneficial, Lecavalier said. “Playing in your building, you’re comfortable and it could make a difference.

“If it’s not the case, you have to battle through it.”

If the Flyers and Rangers finish tied in points, the first tie-breaking criterion is combined regulation and overtime wins. New York currently has a 38-36 edge. The next tie-breaker is the season series, which finished tied. If it went to the NEXT tiebreaker, goal-differential for the season, New York has a wide edge _ plus-22, compared to the Flyers’ plus-3.

In other words, the Flyers probably need to finish ahead of the Rangers and not rely on tie-breakers.

Downie update. Winger Steve Downie passed a baseline (concussion) test Monday, but still needs to get in game shape before coach Craig Berube considers using him.